Nothing is clearer, as we go through yet another around of decision-making about sexuality in the presbyteries, than that the Presbyterian Church is in the grip of legalism, which seems not to trust the gospel. We are trying to order our affairs as a church by the book, and the book is really not very helpful right now.
Lately it seems that we have had a resurgence in the use of the word "relevant." Everywhere I turn, someone is lauding something for being "relevant" or, more often, deriding something for not being "relevant."
There's a tune from South Ireland we used to sing around the piano that includes the question, "How is poor old Ireland and how does she stand?" Well, I've just been back to Ireland on my third Irish Institute in the past 10 years. And Ireland is old, but it is no longer poor.
MONTREAT, N.C. -- Some General Assembly Council members raised questions Saturday about the theology behind ranking the work of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) according to its impact on evangelism and discipleship -- with former General Assembly moderator Douglas Oldenburg saying, "I don't ever want us to become just a consumer church," where only programs with the strongest constituencies prevail.
With much rhetorical wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, the Presbyterian publications are full of letters and articles lamenting the process and the result by which the General Assembly Council finally got around, 17 years after reunion, to doing some of what we promised to do at the end of the first year.
For decades Reformation Sunday has been on the annual calendar of many mainline Protestant churches in the United States. Held on a Sunday near Oct. 31, it commemorates Martin Luther's protest against the Roman Catholic Church. Often its observance has been a way in which Protestants distinguished themselves from Roman Catholics.
Grace and gratitude lie at the heart of Christian faith. Yet their meaning is far from selfÐevident. This has become clear to me, year after year, in teaching seminary and divinity students, for whom the most basic aspects of the gospel are sometimes as difficult as a foreign language. The difficulties in understanding grace extend, however, beyond the classroom, as should be clear to anyone who has focused carefully and critically upon the divisive debates that have strewn their wreckage over the life of the church in recent times. So then, what is the meaning and substance of grace?
Presbyterians pride themselves on being realistic Christians. This is due to the Reformed emphasis that human nature is not perfect nor are human achievements self-sufficient. From a Reformed perspective, all cultural and scientific "advancements" are subject to theological scrutiny. What is sought is a reforming attitude toward the totality of life.
In the Oct. 9 issue the claim was made that Christology is the most important issue facing today's church. In the Oct. 16 issue a companion claim was made that our understanding of the authority of Scripture and its role in the life of the Christian community is critical since it is primarily through Scripture, aided by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, that we know who Jesus is for us and the world.